New Zealand – Fjordland / With another impending vanlife adventure just around the corner, I have finally allowed myself to let go of my last New Zealand post – its funny how we get so emotionally attached to our journeys, and how revisiting images, thoughts and memories is like delving into a deeper state of self-awareness, all over again. I embarked on our New Zealand trip with a cloudy mind, and a healing heart, and I was determined to turn my inner journey into an integral part of my physical journey. I observed in ways I never have before, and had many conversations with myself both pleasant and unpleasant, and im grateful for coming out on the other side, a more defined version of myself.
The great outdoors is something I can never truly escape. A much as I have it in me to close myself up to the world, I always escape my introverted predisposition by finding ways to throw myself back out there. With the support of a partner who has itchier feet than me, my restlessness has turned into a lifestyle – one which can get tiring at times, admittedly – but the awesome almost always outweighs the many fears i carry with me; and that is no easy feat in itself.
Our last few days in NZ were spent cruising around the Fjordland – in retrospect, I would have liked to have spent more time mellowing out at some spots instead of driving on, but we were on a bit of a goose chase to soak up as much of the country we had imagined to be smaller in size, initially. We drove to Milford Sound, ahhhh Milford Sound, what a scenic drive that was. We were met with lots of sunshine, thankfully, as we proceeded to book a boat tour as we were advised, which was much colder than anticipated. Milford Sound is specked with seemingly endless waterfalls, a cohesive mountain-meets-water paradisical environment that displays different colored waters and snow covered peaks. I would have loved to have taken a helicopter ride but as you will find out when you yourself decide to embard on a New Zealand journey of your own, you must pick and choose what to spend money on, and I didnt just have $400 falling out of my pocket just like that.
Driving back out we made a quick detour to spot Mt. Cook, which was hiding in the shadows, and explored more mirror lakes and dry grass fields, which were all sorts of abundant, before cruising over towards Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown, where we spent the eve of my birthday chowing down on the infamous Fergburger. Insider tip about Fergburger: call in and order your food instead of standing in line for it. It takes about 15mins for you to be able to pick it up. BEST TIP EVER, TBH.
Here to answer some of the most common questions I got about traveling New Zealand:
- We absolutely would have been lost without the app Campermate (click to download here) – it works for both New Zealand and Australia, and you are able to download an offline map that can help you find must visit spots, and necessary points such as camping sites, ATMs, public bathrooms, gas stations and anything else you could be looking for online. We judged many spots by the reviews, they were usually on point!
- Sandflies are an absolute pest in NZ, as there are many spots that are pretty remotes, so be sure to cover up your legs especially, and always have some kind of bug spray on you to be sure.
- You can save a lot of money by making your own food, as eating out can be quite heavy on your wallet, and NZ is abundant in farm fresh items that you can pick up at supermarkets everywhere. We got the freshest Kale for a steal and really just lived off sandwiches and roast chickens, and beware if you might even be slightly lactose intolerant because dairy is one of the biggest industries in New Zealand, meaning their milk is as fresh as it gets!
- Since NZ landscapes can change erratically from mountainous to flat lands, it is always a good idea to have warm clothing with you – it can get quite breezy in some places, especially at night when the temperature drops are most noticeable. If you are sleeping in a tent or a van, make sure you have a duvet to stay warm under – we quickly realized that sleeping bags were not enough for nights when we would hit 4 degrees celcius, even in March.
- If you are driving through NZ in a van, make sure you have enough music saved that you can access offline, as there are many spots that just leave you with zero connectivity, rendering my unsaved spotify playlists completely useless. Which can be a good thing too, though.
- Make sure you pack sunscreen even for the winter, because the sun in that part of the world is especially strong. Even with my nearly 20 years of living in South East Asia, I could feel the sun burn down on my skin in an intensity that I couldn’t have predicted. When you go on hikes especially, dont be fooled by the cold wind chills, the sun is still working its magic on you. Protect yourself.
- This one’s a funny one: if you are to buy liquor, make sure you have an ID to show. A week before my 33rd birthday, a stern lady refused to sell me a beer – they tend to check even if you look like you may be in your mid twenties. Obviously, this made my day, but also – I just wanted my beer.
- If you are into photography – watch out for the most intense milky way shots ever. I would scramble to prep my tripod to get my camera ready last minute, because I would almost always be on my way to bed before realizing how lit the sky was. Milky way photos attached to this post – you will thank me later! A wide angle lens and a 30 second shutter should do the trick!
Bonus: all the roadkill you will see on NZ roads are possum – they are considered a pest so don’t feel so bad, they are everywhere. We had to google this after being worried we were seeing dead Kiwi birds everywhere!
If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me 🙂
Thank you, land of the Kiwis!